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Published: Friday, 4/17/2009

UAW must concede

WITH Fiat officials threatening to walk away from a deal to buy into Chrysler, it's time for the United Auto Workers union to abandon its traditional ploy of down-to-the-wire brinkmanship and agree to accept pay and benefits comparable to those of workers in American auto plants run by Japanese firms.

Indeed, the union should have accepted the inevitable weeks ago, after President Obama served notice by firing General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner, that business as usual is over on the part of both the companies and unions if the U.S. auto industry is to survive.

The UAW undoubtedly will protest that giving in to Fiat's demand is unfair, but fairness becomes a relative term when Chrysler, including its valuable Toledo component, Jeep - is fighting for its corporate life.

A pay and benefits package equivalent to that provided by the Japanese manufacturers is the best deal the UAW can expect at this point. While many workers will deem it a hardship because they are accustomed to the extravagance of the "Generous Motors" era, it will be much less harsh than if they lose their jobs and health benefits entirely.

To avoid such a catastrophe, the UAW must climb down off its adversarial high horse and set aside the make-'em-blink brinkmanship that has marked union strategy since World War II.

The union also would do well to distance itself from the militants in the Canadian Auto Workers, who may as well be on another planet as they seem intent on making even more unrealistic demands on Chrysler.

Fiat holds the trump cards in this high-stakes industrial drama, and it's time the UAW recognizes that.

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